Chances are that you probably went, “What?! Is that even for real?” when you heard the term ‘exercise intolerance’. You’re aware of lactose and gluten intolerance but exercise intolerance might have probably sounded like a fictitious medical condition concocted by some lazy bum who hates going to the gym. In reality, it is a very real condition, were individuals affected by it have difficulty in exercising. Read on to know more…
Case in point
Forty-seven year old Farrokh Mistry (name changed) complained of fatigue and heaviness in chest into three minutes of exercise. He was non-diabetic. His coronary angiography showed multi-vessel blockages in the heart arteries, which was treated with five medicated stents with good control of diabetes, thyroid dysfunction and treated blockages. Mistry now exercises one hour daily with no symptoms and enjoy exercise.
Rashmi Mahadevan (name changed), a 54-year-old who had diabetes and recent onset of chest discomfort on exertion which resulted in exercise intolerance. She underwent a single vessel angioplasty with a drug eluding stent and with help of cardiac rehab program she has been able to participate in a marathon, that been on her wish list.
What is it?
Simply put, exercise intolerance is, “The inability to do an activity, which any other person of the same age and sex can do. It is usually assessed by a treadmill stress test or in case of severe symptoms by a six-minute walk test,” informs Dr Sudhir Vaishnav, senior cardiologist at Whitecoats Cardiac Clinic.
Dr Shahid Merchant, Consultant Cardiologist, Lilavati Hospital says that exercise intolerance is when you get fatigued and tired with some amount of walking either at ground level or upstairs or on a treadmill. The condition is detected by patients symptoms of fatigue or exercise or more objectively, on a stress test.
How prevalent is this condition?
Exercise capacity varies quite a lot based on the person’s lifestyle. In sedentary patients, it is common to have exercise intolerance. Otherwise, in healthy subjects it is uncommon. Normally it may be seen in people who are elderly or sick. It can also be seen in patients with physical disabilities, or who are anaemic, informs Dr Vaishnav. Based on the causes, the age varies from young to the old.
There’s no one particular cause for this condition, as it could vary from blockages in heart artery, thyroid dysfunction, obesity, metabolic syndrome and diabetes. The most common cause is cardio respiratory disorder either due to a heart or lung problem.
“The first step is to make a diagnosis of whether the cause is related to diabetes, thyroid problem, obesity, heat artery blockages, metabolic syndrome, peripheral artery disease and treat the condition accordingly,” says Dr Merchant. The treatment is to correct the underlying disease/cause, if possible. As for where the heart is concerned, it may be because of blockage in the heart arteries of diseases of the valves or weakness of heart muscle, opines Dr Vaishnav.